Bill and I had our monthly download of conversation at Mai Dang Lao, commiserating over the issues concerning the expatriate elderly; money, work, sex and health. There was no real news to share in the sex and money categories, and after age sixty we don’t want to even think about health, but I complained to Bill, that after three years of teaching ESL in China, I still had that migrant-farm-worker-with-an-MBA, feeling. Just like the Mexican cement finisher in Houston, making the same five dollars an hour he started out ten years before. If I don’t like the standard laowai wage of 100 Kuai/hour, there is another laowai that will like it.
Bill, "You know what really hurts Bill, more than no money, no sex, slave wages and poor health? I ain’t getting no self-fulfillment".
Take October as my most recent example. I needed 4,000RMB to go to Hong Kong for the Toastmasters Fall Conference. I needed another 3,000 to pay my rent. Then 6,000 or 7,000 to Charter the Café Alayna club and if there was any loose change, I could always pay off my now $8,000 credit card debt which was only $4,000 when I came to China three years ago. What’s a poor, handsome, but old laowai, to do but teach his ESL fanny off?
So, I signed up for 22 hours at Laowaifone and another Wednesday/Thursday 15 hours of 750 primary school kids. So Bill, here’s what happened.
The very first day after my over-exposure to the first three, 1st grade classes of 55 each, I was ready to call it a day.
"No, Wang Laoji, the children all love you, don't quit."
After, the second week of Thursdays, I texted the FAO (Foreign Affairs Officer) and pleaded insanity. And would he please commit me to another institution.
"Okay, but stick it out until the end of the month or until you find a replacement, another cement finisher, with at least a Bachelor’s.”
I threw in the bilingual towel after the fourth week, when the headmaster, had the head teacher, ask me if I would teach the British Textbook for grades one through five.
It’s not the kids fault. As an adult with nine years of college, I couldn’t pay attention to a Chinese elementary school teacher for more than 10 minutes. Texas and California spent billions trying to babysit Mexican kids with bi-lingual teachers. Twenty years later they discovered that the pressure to 'fit in' automatically forced the kids to teach themselves within a month or two, at a regular English only school. My recommendation to the headmaster – send all the kids and their teachers to rural areas in the mid-west for a summer.
Fridays, when I dragged myself to work at the ‘Laowaifone’ it was almost like having a day off. Four students max for tutorial classes and no more than eight in conversation plus an English corner session where I could teach anything – anyway I wanted. I fell in love with the flat screen TV and soon began turning my comedy drama scripts into pictures with words, Power Point slide presentations.
Inspired by accessing videos of my speech performances at the Beijing Advanced Toastmasters Club, I had a student make a wifi cellphone video of the students doing the IHOP skit, which is a joke about a truck driver in a restaurant.
It was great, beyond my wildest architect's mind expectations. Why? Because it combined the three principles of learning, SEE (Visual), HEAR (Auditory) and DO (Kinesthetic). The video feedback let the ESL students see and hear for themselves how they were doing. I also saw those ten kilos I have added to my body language since coming to China.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Zhengzhou Connections.